How to feed and mulch fruiting plants and harvest garlic
Feeding and mulching fruiting vegetables
- Plants that need the most feeding are summer fruiting crops like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and chillis.
- Give each plant a handful of volcanic rock dust and either chicken poo or sheep pellets.
- Then water the bed which helps the fertilisers to be absorbed. The liquid fertiliser which you’re about to apply absorbs into the soil better too, and it also means the ground has lots of moisture in it before the mulch is applied.
- See here for how to make Rob’s summer liquid fertiliser. You can also add thistles and dandelion. This brew is high in potassium which fruiting plants love.
- Give it a stir before using to get all the good stuff up from the bottom of the barrel. If you follow biodynamic methods, spend up to 10 minutes at a time stirring one way for 20 seconds to get a vortex going then change direction and make the vortex spin the opposite way for 20 seconds. True biodynamic farmers would do this for an hour (taking turns of course!). This process increases the capacity of the water to support life because it’s believed by reverse stirring, chaos is produced followed by the order of a new vortex so that ultimately the water is full of the basic principle of lifeforce – order arriving out of chaos. It also has the added benefit of making the water more viscous and able to carry nutrients.
- Apply the liquid at the strength of weak tea. This will probably mean diluting it by around 5 parts of water to 1 part of liquid fertiliser.
- Pour the liquid fertiliser generously over the whole plant including leaves and fruit. The beneficial flowering plants planted around our fruiting crops will enjoy the fertiliser too.
- If you haven’t made your own liquid fertiliser Ocean Organics now make an organic comfrey spray which you can purchase (available in our shop).
- Mulch is important because it keeps the roots of plants cool, helps retain moisture in the ground and breaks down and feeds earthworms, bacteria and fungi.
- There are all sorts of mulch – pea, lucerne (alfafa), and oats and barley. Rob prefers lucerne chaff because it’s chopped up and spreads and breaks down more easily. He also likes it because it’s a nitrogen-fixing crop. This means when the plant dies, the fixed nitrogen is released, making it available to other plants which helps fertilise the soil. Lucerne is also one of the less sprayed crops.
- You can buy lucerne mulch from most garden centres now, but if you’re prepared to take a drive out into horse country you’ll find bags of last year’s crop at front gates for a reasonable price.
- Damp it all down with a good watering to stop the mulch flying away.
- Repeat the feeding process every 4 weeks to ensure stronger, healthier plants which are therefore more disease-resistant.
- While not absolutely necessary Rob likes to cover his tomato plants with netting to avoid damage from birds.
- Tie string between the stakes for the netting to hang over. Use pegs to secure the netting into the ground.
- Be generous with the netting so there’s enough space for the plants to grow. You can see now why we needed such tall stakes.
- Use the same pegs to secure the netting at the top too if needed.
- Living in a warmer climate, Rob planted his garlic in early April and now it’s ready for harvest almost 9 months later. Traditionally it’s thought garlic should be planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest day.
- It’s important to harvest garlic at just the right time. When the leaves start yellowing, that’s the sign. If you left them in the soil and there was a good downfall of rain, the garlic would re-sprout which means they wouldn’t store.
- Pull out plants and lay them on the soil for around 3 days to dry out. Check the weather forecast to make sure you have 3 consecutive dry days in which to do this.
- Hang bulbs in bunches of 4 or 5 from the leaves so that all the energy goes from the leaves back into the bulb. Leave them hanging for around 6 weeks.
- Once they’re dry chop off the roots and the leaves and store in a dry place.
- Identify the best bulb(s) as seed for next year’s crop and store in a safe place.
Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes